Night at the Museum, by Albert W. Vogt III

I have seen Night at the Museum (2006), but I did not remember it until I recently re-watched it.  Thanks, Disney +!  That I would so completely forget the bulk of a film is unusual for me, but I have a good reason.  My first viewing was part of a former tradition I had with one of my best friends since high school and his family where we would get together Christmas night and go to the movies.  Nothing out of the ordinary, so far.  For whatever reason, though, it seemed like every teenager in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area had the same idea.  The result was chaos, which is actually befitting of some of the scenes in the film.  Kids were running in and out of the theater and up and down the aisles, and the level of talking reached a point where there were people shouting at each other in anger over not being able to hear the film.  I cannot say that I blame them for their angry words, though that is seldom a recipe for calming a tense situation.  So bad did things get that the St. Petersburg Police Department, in its infinite wisdom, decided to shut down the cineplex and kick everyone out.  Thus, everyone who had been on the verge of trading blows in the theater now congregated in the confined courtyard outside the cinema.  Me, my best friend, and his family (including his mother, who I adore), spent a few harrowing minutes navigating back to our care through the seething mob.  I felt so bad for my best friend’s mom.  And I did get to see the end of the movie!

Night at the Museum begins with Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) going to pick up his son Nick (Jake Cherry) from his mother’s Erica (Kim Raver) house.  They are divorced, and when Larry arrives, he learns that Nick had opted not to include his dad on career day.  As we learn, this is because Larry is a bit of a dreamer and has had trouble holding down a steady job.  Still, Larry is dedicated to his son, and is particularly motivated to find stable employment when Nick speaks of giving up his favorite sport hockey in order to take after the bond trader profession of his step-father Don (Paul Rudd).  Larry’s subsequent appointment with a job agency lands him the only position his qualifications seem to match with: a nighttime security guard at the New York Museum of Natural History.  They had turned down several applicants, but when the old guard crew of Cecil (Dick can Dyke), Gus (Mickey Rooney), and Reginald (Bill Cobbs) take one look at the well-meaning but seemingly hapless Larry, they feel he is the guy to take over for them as they retire.  Very quickly, they leave Larry with a set of instructions, the keys, and some well-wishes.  Not long into his first night, things take a turn when he discovers that all the displays come to life.  Too late, he realizes what the instructions are for, and quickly loses them anyway when they are stolen by Dexter, the Capuchin monkey from the African exhibit.  Somehow, he is able to survive his first night, and is about to quit when he sees Nick once again and remembers why he needs the job in the first place. Following some extra advice from Cecil, Larry spends some time reading up on history and various other things in the museum in order to get a better handle on how to treat each group that are clearly out to run amok.  Despite his best efforts, and some help from Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), his second night nearly ends in disaster, too, particularly when he gives the cavemen a lighter and is forced to put out a fire with an extinguisher.  When his boss, Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), finds fire retardant foam in their display, he is about to dismiss Larry.  Luckily, Larry is able to stay his boss’s hand, and he is given one more chance.  This time, he decides to bring Nick along in order to impress his son with the incredible way the museum comes to life after the sun goes down.  With Nick sitting at the front kiosk, the appointed time comes and goes without anything happening.  This is because the former guards, led by Cecil, have come to rob the museum.  Their first item plucked from display is an ancient Egyptian table that is the reason for the facility’s nighttime activities.  In the resulting raucous, Larry is able to briefly get the tablet back in order to bring the museum back to life.  He then summons their help to deal with the intruders.  There are lots of contributors, but the most spectacular of which is the large Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, lured by miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Roman legionnaire Octavius (Steve Coogan) driving a remote-control Hummer dragging a bone.  Let that sentence sink in for a moment.  At any rate, the robbers are stopped, and the museum is saved when some of the antics are reported on the news, triggering a renewed interest in its collections.  And Nick had a great time, too.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton chasing a bone dragged by a remote-control Hummer driven by a cowboy and a Roman legionnaire is an unbelievable set of circumstances, but that is Night at the Museum for you.  As someone who has been through the process of getting a Ph.D., as with Rebecca (Carla Gugino), a museum docent, I had to laugh when she said she is writing a 900-page dissertation on Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck).  No dissertation committee is going to read anything that long.  Regardless, this is all part of the fun of the film.  I cannot say that there is a particular Faith angle to it.  It is simply good, wholesome fun.  As somebody who appreciates museums, particularly ones that deal with history, I had wondered before seeing this movie what it would be like if something like this actually happened.  I would have a similar reaction as Rebecca when she got to meet Sacajawea if I were to come face-to-face with, say, St. Thomas Aquinas.  It is the stuff of dreams, and I like dreams.

Night at the Museum is not a terribly difficult movie to understand, and that is part of the charm.  There are some rules, such as the fact that you cannot allow the displays to be caught outside after the sun rises.  When this happens with one of the cavemen, it immediately turns to dust ala Avengers: Infinity War (2018).  While it is sad when this happens, it is still a safe movie for the entire family to watch and gets my full recommendation.


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